WWE Championship defenses are a rarity on Smackdown.
In the promotional build to CM Punk defending the title against Kane in the main event, WWE advertised it has been four years since it last happened.
That alone made tonight's Smackdown feel special. Add to that the well-hyped return of Sin Cara, and it seemed apparent WWE actually cared about getting people to watch the blue brand this week.
The result of that main event, though, will be a source of consternation among wrestling fans and Internet-writing purists.
Punk and Kane worked a decent-length match that was actually quite entertaining. Kane gets a lot of flak for being past his prime and a stale act, but when paired with the right opponent, he's still an impressive worker who knows how to put together a good story in the ring. AJ, cheering Punk on from the outside, also continued to excel in her role and embracing her character.
Daniel Bryan interjected himself into the contest, attacking both Punk and Kane. The three-way feud continued to develop, and ultimately, it hit its peak as general manager John Laurinaitis emerged and officially booked a triple threat match for the WWE Championship at No Way Out.
Even before the episode aired, when the addition of Kane to the mix was mere speculation, fans online began complaining that Kane was going to dilute the pureness of the feud between Punk and Bryan.
From my vantage point, that couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, the match these three will put together at No Way Out will be nothing like the epic contest between Punk and Bryan at Over the Limit, but that doesn't mean it will be bad.
The addition of Kane, as well as the growing presence of AJ in the feud, enhances the story and creates a number of new outlets and possibilities.
One potential outcome, and the one I admittedly am hoping for, would see Bryan pin Kane to win the WWE Championship, thus establishing Punk's cause for a singles rematch.
Bryan has been on a pay-per-view losing streak, and this would enable him to score a big win, add another title to his resume and draw out the feud with Punk.
This a feud with potential to have some real legs, and if it takes something like adding Kane to one pay-per-view match to keep it alive and going, that's a price I'm more than willing to pay.
It's just a shame it's a foregone conclusion this match will play second fiddle to the match between John Cena and Big Show on the pay-per-view. Maybe one day Punk will be allowed to headline a PPV as WWE champion.
** Those fans clamoring for Dolph Ziggler to step up to the plate should not feel let down after Ziggler's match against World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus. Ziggler looked strong, as Sheamus never seemed out of his league, and the finish can be blamed on backfiring interference from Jack Swagger. Signs are really pointing toward Ziggler finally staking out on his own, and if this match is any indication, he has limitless potential to do well for himself. Here's hoping the suspensions of Chris Jericho and Randy Orton do have silver lining in that they become a chance for someone like Ziggler to shine.
** There were several positives about the opening segment of the show that saw David Otunga demand an apology from Sheamus. First, I like the way they kept Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio, who came out to make his presence known, apart was good. Not every feud needs guys to be in constant contact or brawls. Second, Otunga's best use in the company is on the microphone. He's skilled and comfortable on the mic, so seeing him used in this way - and being the fall guy for Laurinaitis, eating a Brogue Kick from the champ - is probably the best scenario for the present time.
** Sin Cara made a victorious return to Smackdown, defeating Heath Slater. The masked superstar looked good in his offense and didn't seem to look as sloppy and uncomfortable in a WWE ring as he did before his injury. Sin Cara has potential to be a good midcard babyface, as fans tend to rally behind luchadors in WWE. Hopefully, though, he will find something meaningful to do, as there are simply too many midcarders being pushed without real direction right now. How many times can I say that on this blog?
** Titus O'Neil and Darren Young, now known as the Prime Time Players, lost to United States Champion Santino Marella and Zack Ryder when Marella rolled up Young out of nowhere. There wasn't much to this match, and after it was over, Big Show destroyed both of the victors. This sure isn't the way to build up a new, up-and-coming tag team or the United States champion; that's for sure.
** Damien Sandow earned another win on Smackdown by defeating Ezekiel Jackson. Yes, Jackson has been relegated to jobber status as of late, but defeating a man his size is still more of an accomplishment than squashing Yoshi Tatsu. Sandow's character has been well established; now WWE needs to give him something more than a squash to show his full abilities in the ring.
** Look, another squash match! Cody Rhodes easily put Tyson Kidd away before engaging in a staredown with Intercontinental Champion Christian. Rhodes came out of this looking strong, but other than that, there wasn't much else to it.
** Another week, another Ryback squash match. Let's leave it at that.
Sin Cara d. Heath Slater
Damien Sandow d. Ezekiel Jackson
Ryback d. Ryan Shelton and Chris Lyons
Sheamus d. Dolph Ziggler
Santino Marella and Zack Ryder d. Titus O'Neil and Darren Young
Cody Rhodes d. Tyson Kidd
CM Punk vs. Kane went to a double disqualification
Tonight's Smackdown had a good flow and came across well. The only real issue with the show was the overabundance of extremely short or pure squash matches. Of the seven matches on the card, four were total squashes and one was a glorified squash. Sheamus and Ziggler, though, put on a good show, and the main event delivered from both an in-ring and storyline perspective. Those two matches helped strengthen this show, which was well worth watching.